New gondola, new patterns
January 9, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoSNOWMASS This certainly isn’t a scientific study, but it sure seems obvious that the new Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass has shifted skier and rider traffic patterns at the massive ski area.Saturday, for example, the powder attracted an impressive crowd to Snowmass. There were long lines at the Elk Camp high-speed quad chair by midmorning, and lines materialized soon after at the Alpine Springs quad.Even the slow High Alpine double chairlift had a crowd bulging well beyond the lift maze. Skiers and riders kept riding the lift salivating at the prospect of catching Hanging Valley Wall when ski patrol dropped the rope after avalanche control.The rush to the east side of the mountain left the Big Burn, Campground and other points west nearly empty. There were no lift lines at the Burn quad at 1 p.m. Powder stashes were still plentiful in the Powerline Glades throughout the afternoon, and the approach to Garrett’s Gulch was nothing short of phenomenal.Similar traffic patterns existed Sunday. There were far fewer people overall than on Saturday, but the majority of those present crowded to the east side of the mountain again. It was possible to ski up to the Big Burn lift and snag a chair alone between 1 and 2 p.m. – something unheard of in prior years. That was especially rewarding since the wind had loaded the approach to Garrett’s Gulch with powder again Saturday night.While I’m not a huge fan of the new gondola, except as a tool to get to Hanging Valley, I say hallelujah to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s multimillion-dollar investment. I’m all for the hordes traveling to Elk Camp and leaving the Big Burn and Campground for the rest of us.